Kota Lukut - Negri Sembilan Malaysia

map courtesy of arkib negara malaysia

As the world's demand for tin grew, so did the battles between local Malay chiefs. Chinese immigrants who arrived to work at the mines were recruited into secret societies that were also fighting each other for territorial rights. Raja Busu who ruled before Raja Jumaat, exploited the Chinese miners to its extreme. Many Chinese labourers were treated no better than farm animals. Such injustice pushed the labourers to their limits and the Chinese leaders led their people in a rebellion against Raja Busu's army. They cornered Raja Busu and his family in their palace and set the place on fire.

Raja Busu's successor, Raja Jumaat feared that he may suffer the fate of his predecessor. In 1847, he built a fort on Bukit Raja, a tiny hill overlooking the town. The fort was a vantagepoint where the Raja used as a base to oversee his thriving tin business and community.

the moat surrounding lukut fort

Muzzle-loading guns with a clear view of the Lukut river valley defended all sides of the square fort. Chances were slim for enemies to ambush without being spotted. Even for those bold enough to infiltrate the fort, it is by no means an easy feat. The moat that surrounded the fortress was booby trapped with millions of shards of bamboo sticks. Anyone attempting to swim across would have been pierced. For those who had penetrated the fortress but had the misfortune of being spotted, were put to death at the poison well just a short distance from the fort. Felons were also subjected to the same fate.

the royal well

The royal household however took their water from the royal well, which was watched over all hours by guards. The remains of a two-storey building in the middle must have been where the 'king sat in the counting house, counting all his money'. Having ruled with a firm hand and maintained law and order in such a riotous town and at the same time ensured profits for everyone, Raja Jumaat gained immense admiration and respect from his people and the neighbouring rulers. He also gained total control of all the profits from the local tin trade making him one of the more successful rulers. Suffice to say that every great man leaves behind a legacy. Most of all, it is sadly recognised that every fortress, however magnificent and infallible - was and is always built from blood, sweat, tears, riches, and sacrifices of his fellow men.

raja jumaat's residence- april 1875. courtesy of arkib negara malaysia

Kota (fort) Lukut remains as one of the best-preserved Bugis forts in the country. Although what is left of the fortress is hardly mentionable as compared with other ancient ruins but like all ruins, there is a strong presence of the old spirits ; spirits that had protected the grounds centuries before from pending danger and invasions. These are the spirits of our warriors who link our past with our present and provide us with the history for our future.

At the bottom of the hill sits the Lukut Museum. Displays on the recovery of the sunk Dutch warships just off Cape Rachado gives a good idea of the historical significance of the area during the 16th and 17th century. Other displays show the culture, economy and history of the Minangkabau clan in Negri Sembilan. The museum is open from : Tues to Thurs :- 9.00am to 5.00pm and on Fridays :-9.00am to 12.00pm, 3.00pm to 5.00pm. Admission is free.

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